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In the Spotlight

Published: August 14, 2009 (Issue # 1500)


On Sunday, Channel One launched its own version of the British comedy show The Kumars at 42. The original show has jokes about an Indian family, while the Russian version chose Armenians as its local amusing ethnic group. And the Armenians arent very happy.

The concept of the British show is that a would-be television star cant get a job, so he decides to film his own chat show at home. Real famous people step through his front door and are accosted by his embarrassing relatives, who are actors performing scripted and improvised jokes.

The show on Channel One is called Rubik Almighty. The ad for the show explains that Rubik is a wealthy Armenian who likes to buy and sell everything and has decided to pay for his own show on Channel One.

Amazingly, television critic Irina Petrovskaya told Ekho Moskvy that she initially thought that this was for real.

Rubik lives in a huge, tastelessly decorated house with his blonde Russian girlfriend, his middle-aged sister, his sex-mad grandfather and his geeky teenage nephew Gamlet, or Hamlet, a popular boys name in Armenia.

The Union of Armenians in Russia on Wednesday published a letter of protest to the director of Channel One, calling the Armenian family caricatured.

The show was announced as a comedy, but what we saw provoked not laughter but a natural storm of indignation among Armenian youth in Russia, the letter said.

Armenians are traditionally viewed as the funniest people in the Soviet bloc, along with Jewish people. While the idea that an Indian chat show host cant get his own show in Britain has a satirical edge, its hard to argue that theres any discrimination against Armenians on Russian television as long as theyre being funny.

Garik Martirosyan appears on current-affairs comedy show ProjectorParisHilton; Mikhail Galustyan is the co-star of the sketch show Nasha Russia; Tigran Keosayan hosts a late-night discussion show; Yevgeny Petrosyan is the long-running star of Crooked Mirror, an old-fashioned variety show; and the Comedy Club stand-up show is owned by Armenians.

The star of Rubik Almighty, Ruben Dzhaginyan, is well-known in Armenia as a former member of its KVN student comedy team and the head of a big ad agency.

The pilot show was flashy but not very funny. The guests were Dmitry Dibrov, a Channel One host whose grin occasionally slipped off his frozen face, and Anna Semenovich, a figure skater turned pop singer. She looked frightened as the jokes focused on her ample bosom.

The best jokes were about Dibrovs frequent trips to the registry office ?he recently married two girls, aged 23 and 19 and a question to vocally challenged sexpot Semenovich: Is it true that the only way to get into show business is via ice skates?

Part of the problem is that Russian television doesnt really have the celebrity chat show format that The Kumars at 42 was parodying. Reactions to the show were baffled. What on earth was it? wrote Chocolita on LiveJournal.

Armenians complained that the show was offensive to their nation.

I consider Rubik Almighty a personal insult, wrote Slishkomtiho, an Armenian blogger. Either take [Dzhaginyan] off the air or force him to speak without an accent, Juber wrote on the Channel One forum.

Rubik spoke with an exaggerated accent, which was presumably fake. All the Armenian stars on television speak Russian without any accent.

Whats more, Rubik is a collection of all the stereotypes about Armenians: He flashes the cash, likes blondes, keeps things in the family, never stops doing business and is irritatingly successful.

Although if I could pick my national stereotypes, I wouldnt mind those ones.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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